December 23, 2013
Scripture John 1:14a RSV
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a RSV).
John’s declaration is one of the most cherished lines in Scripture: that the Father’s co-eternal Son took upon Himself human flesh.
Visualize the Incarnation as if it were a cosmic-sized letter “V.” The downward stroke of the letter signifies the downward movement of the Incarnation itself; the bottom point signifies the lowest part of the saga (Jesus in the tomb). The upward stroke signifies the grand upward movement of Jesus into heaven by way of resurrection and ascension.
As helpful as this visualization may be, it can easily lead to the wrong conclusion. It is easy to imagine (falsely) that everything the Son experienced in the downward journey was simply reversed in His upward journey, as if this down-then-up trip brought the Son right back to where He started as if nothing had changed, as if He could look back on it all and say, “Whew! Glad that’s over with! Mission accomplished!”
But the Bible never says that the Incarnation has been undone. Though Jesus now sits in glory at the Father’s right hand, He remains embodied, bearing His wounds of love and a human face forever! He “became flesh,” and hasn’t “un-become flesh.”
The love of permanent identity with humanity is inestimably deeper than a love that would have motivated only a temporary mission. And that’s part of the stunning message of Christmas! Jesus has never “backed out.”
Author: Joseph Dongell is married to Regina, lives in Wilmore and teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church.